Characterizing Exoplanet Atmospheres: Forward Models and Future Missions
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UC Santa Cruz
Atmospheres are the lens through which we understand other worlds. Molecules in planetary atmospheres carve absorption features into reflection, emission, and transmission spectra, allowing us to characterize a worlds composition and thermal state. Atmospheric condensates have a strong influence on the albedos of planets and, thus, are critical for determining the energy balance of a world. Atmospheres can even control the evolution of worlds, either through their role as the valve through which giant planets and brown dwarfs cool over billions of years, or by extinguishing a terrestrial planets habitability via a runaway greenhouse. Thus, it is particularly exciting that we are entering into (what will likely be) a long era of exoplanet atmospheric characterization. New instruments and missions, such as the Gemini Planet Imager and the James Webb Space Telescope, will gather atmospheric observations of Jovian to super-Earth planets. The planned addition of an exoplanet direct imaging component to the WFIRST mission will enable a broader survey of the atmospheres of nearby planetary systems like our own. However, our ability to understand these exoplanet atmospheres will depend critically on the quality of our forward models, where progress will increasingly rely on collaboration between Solar System planetary scientists and astronomers. This presentation will discuss my current research programs in comparative planetology with an emphasis on newly-developed instruments as well as near- and far-future missions. Importantly, I will highlight ideas and projects that can help make the next two decades of exoplanet science as amazing as its first two decades.
Date: Thursday, 4 February 2016 Time: 11:30 Where: Université de Montréal Pavillon Roger-Gaudry, local D-225 Contact: Richard Léonelli